Back on Track for Fall! and a $25 Amazon GC Giveaway.

For most of our kids, school has either started or will start in about a week. I’ve had a rocking summer with the kids, but it’s time to get settled back into a routine for the family. I am a huge proponent of routines for kids. Having one for our family has really helped calm and allay fears of the unknown, which is huge for kids with ASD.

Not that everything has to be exactly the same every day, but knowing what will happen within a time frame gives kids (and some adults too) a certain sense of calm.

I posted at the beginning of the summer about our schedule, and it really helped. Our school year schedule is a little different, but most of our appointments are the about the same time each week.

A few other things that help us keep on track during the school year:

Screen Shot 2018-08-25 at 8.41.01 AM.pngHaving grab and go lunch items at hand. In the pantry, there is a basket filled with all kinds of lunch/snack items. Crackers, cookies, squeezy pouches, fruit snacks, fruit leathers, cups of PB/other nut/seed butters, pretzels, juice boxes, etc. On the counter we’ve got a trifle bowl (I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve made trifle in the past 11 years-but… it makes a great fruit bowl), that we will with lunchbox sized fruit: apples, tangerines, and occasionally pears. I keep the bananas separate on a little hook/stand.

I also keep a stash of frozen tubes of yogurt in the freezer, and a grip of cheese sticks either pre-packaged or home-made, depending on which is cheaper, in the fridge. What’ a home made cheese stick? Buy a big block of cheese, grab a large, sharp knife and cut the cheese into hunks resembling commercially made cheese sticks. I wrap them in saran wrap and keep them in a large zip top bag in the dairy drawer.

It takes about 15 minutes to organize the lunch stuff once a week, and it saves me a lot of time each morning.

A Pretty Solid Meal Plan. I’ve posted about meal planning so many times, and honestly, it really does help. I get a lot of magazines in the mail (free of course), and most of them are cooking magazines. I try to add a new recipe into the mix weekly.

Exercise. I know this sounds weird, but, for me, exercise is my me time. We go to our local YMCA, and the kids go to child care for up to two hours. I do an hour of cardio (and catch up on email, Facebook, or bring along a book), then do weights for about 20-40 minutes. It’s a chance to focus on my body and health. Sometimes I grab my travel bag, and toss it into my gym bag with a couple towels and go take a shower after my cardio. Taking a shower without little people interrupting you is one of life’s small luxuries. Whatever makes you happy and allows you to escape a little each day, I encourage you to explore it. 

Coffee. I’m one of those people that has to have coffee every day. It’s part of my daily ritual. I drink at least 30 ounces of coffee a day: hot, cold, heck even room temp., I don’t care. It can even be decaf. I set up to coffee maker before bed, and when we get up in the morning, there is a hot, fresh pot of coffee. And we don’t have a fancy coffee maker either… This is the coffee maker we have.

Giveaway: Let’s celebrate back to school! I’d love to hear about how you get back to it after school starts. Leave me a comment below and enter to win a $25 Amazon GC* here (This link may not be mobile friendly)! I’ll choose a winner on September 4th, 2018. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Winner subject to verification of entry tasks. Winner must reside in the USA. $25 Amazon GC will be rewarded as a digital Gift Code, emailed to the winner.

Advertisements

Exploring Legoland:Assisted Access Pass

IMG_0215
“No Mommy, I don’t want to have my picture taken with a shark, I want to pick my nose.” Margaret

Recently, the kids and I got a sneak peak of the Lego City: Deep Sea Adventure ride. It was great fun- it combines a submarine ride, a treasure hunt, and Legos! The kids had a blast. Henry loved getting his picture taken with Lego “Sharky”, and of course the building station to entertain the kids while we waited in line.  I like that the building station has directions and information about real life fish and ocean wildlife that kids can build with the Legos found at the building station.

IMG_0223.jpg

IMG_0222.jpg

Henry loves Legoland, and so does Margaret. I love taking them. In addition to fun rides, there are tons of areas for kids to play, run, build Lego, and splash (in addition to the water park). What I really like is that they offer an Assisted Access Pass.

A lot of readers don’t know this, but Henry is ASD (That’s Autism Spectrum Disorder). So going on rides, waiting in line with a lot of people, loud noises, and weird smells can trigger him and lead to meltdowns, or just shutting down (sensory overload). Thankfully Legoland offers the Assisted Access Pass. For anyone with a disability, pick one up at Guest Services near the entrance. The pass entitles the pass holder, plus up to five additional people in your party to by-pass the regular line, and wait in a shortened line.

After you get into the by-pass line, the Model Citizen (that’s the staff member) will sign your pass and give you the next time that you can utilize the pass again. You can use it all day. We usually use it 3-4 times to go on the rides the kids really want to go on and have a long line. The wait time to use the pass again can be passed at a splash pad, play area, or building station. There is lots to see and do besides rides. There are quiet areas where kids (and adults) can decompress and relax at both First Aid and The Baby Care Center.

469ABCF7-367C-4837-BF98-445D13D1A387.jpgI also like that you can bring your own snacks into Legoland too. I pack our backpack full of snacks and treats, and our reusable Camelback bottles , (which you can refill with ice and water for free at anyone of the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines throughout the park).  But- the kids and I do love the goodies and treats at Legoland. Especially, Granny’s Apple Fries.

If you and your kiddos are ravenous after 5pm in the park, check out this deal:

Screen Shot 2018-07-10 at 8.56.38 PM.pngKIDS EAT FREE AFTER 5 PM THROUGH 8/18/2018 * Fun Town’s Urban Kitchen, Wok ‘N’ Bowl Ramen, Garden Deli & Café, Pizza Pasta Buffet and Smokehouse BBQ only. Offer is available for a limited time, see locations for availability and details. Kids receive one FREE Kids’ Meal with the purchase of one full-price adult entrée. Offer is available after 5pm at Fun Town’s Urban Kitchen, Wok ‘N’ Bowl Ramen, Garden Deli & Café, Pizza Pasta Buffet and Smokehouse BBQ at LEGOLAND® California. Adult entrée purchase equals one FREE Kids’ Meal. Cannot be combined with any other discount or offer. Restrictions apply. The right of final interpretation resides with LEGOLAND California Resort. Prices, times and schedules subject to change without notice.

The kids dig the Pizza and Pasta Buffet.  I dig Kids Eat Free.

And here are photos of Henry pretending to be Arthur- The king, not the aardvark.

 

For our family, Legoland is a great way to spend the day together on our schedule, with little to no stress.  Talk Back: What is your favorite way to spend time with your family that low key and enjoyable?

 

 

Kids, Schedules, and Summertime!

file000981824153.jpgWe keep to a schedule at our house, even in the summer. I know summer is a time for lazy days, playing it by ear, and fun adventures, but when you have a kiddo on the autism spectrum you need a little structure in your life at all times.

Here is a copy of part of our daily summer schedule, I’ve cut off the afternoons as it contains our therapy schedule, as well as lessons/classes. Screen Shot 2018-06-20 at 9.00.47 PM.png

Ok, so first of all, I know you are thinking, “Who the hell gets up at 7:30 during the summer?!?!”, well, us. My kids are usually up by 7:30am in the summer, and that’s sleeping in (ugh, 6:30am, you come too early during the school year).

I’ve included the analog clock  because the big guy is learning to tell time and it helps him visualize on the clocks in the house.

Despite the structure, there is room for creativity and flux. We have freedom in choosing breakfast, what to wear, and there is a 2-hour window of play time, where the kids can do whatever they want: free play, crafts, read a story, watch cartoons.

When my buddy was younger, we frequently went without a schedule, and honestly, I was nuts. Just wandering all day without a plan, I frequently had a headache at the end of the day, and would be dreading the next.  Now we have a loose overview of what to expect each day, and we fill in our time with free or low cost events. Check out your local library branch- they frequently have fun classes or events.

Screen Shot 2018-06-20 at 9.45.05 PM.png
The menu for El Cajon, CA free lunch locations. Pizza and salad twice a week!

And for some reason, kids are bottomless pits in the summer, we try to check out some of the free lunches for kids a few times a week. It helps keep our grocery budget in check, but most importantly, it exposes the kids to trying new foods, and new experiences.  I try and find out the menus ahead of time and expose the kids to 1-2 new foods per week in an environment where there are peers who already like to eat the “new food”.  When kids see peers eating something that’s new to them, often times they try it, even if they may give mom or dad some resistance. I’m not saying that peer pressure is always a bad thing.

In addition to free lunches, I try to keep our family snack bag well stocked. I tend to visit Grocery Outlet and 99 Cents Only for most of our snack needs. $25/week is my budget for lunches and snacks for the summer.

I try not to set our schedules in stone- We get invites to hang out with friends, go to events, or maybe some relatives will come out for a surprise visit (who knows). We want the kids to have fun over the summer, and I do my best to make sure they get a balance of fun times, learning, and relaxation.

I’d love to hear about what you do in the summer: Do you wing it, or have a schedule?

 

Chocolate Chip Protein Cookies!

img_8846.jpgI know today is Pi Day, but Henry doesn’t really like pie (except Cheesecake), and I’m always looking for ways to get more protein into my buddy. He has a lot of food aversions, so most meat is a no-go (I don’t really count the occasional chicken nugget he inhales), same with beans, lentils, peas, and most other traditional sources of protein.

And who doesn’t love chocolate chips cookies…..

On the Back of the Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes mix I noticed that they say you can swap their mix  1 for 1 with flour, leavening, and salt in any baking recipe. Challenge accepted!

I turned to my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, the one on the back of the Tollhouse Chips Bag.

Making a few modifications based on what we had in the house, and we were ready to bake!

Here is the Original Recipe. One thing I really recommend is to cream the butter (basically use the electric mixer to “fluff up” the butter) for 30 seconds to a minute before adding the sugars.

IMG_8851.jpgIngredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups Kodiak Cakes Mix
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar or Splenda (I used baking Splenda)
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups Nestlé Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels

 

 

 

 

IMG_8852.jpg
Cookie Dough

IMG_8853.jpg

 

 

Directions:

  1. Cream the butter for 30 seconds to a minute.
  2. Add Sugars and mix until combined.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, and mix completely before adding second egg.
  4. Add vanilla, Kodiak Cakes mix, blend until dough forms.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Spoon 1 Tbs. blobs onto a greased cookie sheet or a silicone cooking pad on a cookie sheet. I love Sil pads.
  7. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

Here are the calorie stats for the entire batch of cookies and per serving, which is 2 cookies. I serve Henry 2 of these with an 8 ounce glass of milk. So the total protein for his snack is 12 grams.

Screen Shot 2018-03-14 at 10.25.08 AM.png

Screen Shot 2018-03-14 at 10.25.02 AM.png

This recipe makes 5 dozen cookies.

Do you have a secret to getting your kids to eat more protein?

Keepin’ Track of your stuff with Mabel’s Labels!

IMG_8445.jpgI received a free packet of labels, however all opinions of Mabel’s Labels are my own. If you click on the links in the post and make a purchase, I may be compensated- and that facilitates giveaways and the running of the blog!

While I was at Influential Summit over the weekend, I met with the nice folks at Mabel’s Labels. They gave each attendee a packet of their new Glitter Labels. LOVE IT! Fingers crossed, this will keep everyone’s mitts off my water bottle!

Henry has had Mabel’s Labels for his stuff for a few years. I really like them. I’m not a big fan of putting kids name on personal stuff where strangers can see it (I grew up in the days of after-school specials and heightened awareness of strangers), but I do recognize the need for labeling the stuff kids take to school.  I use Mabel’s Labels inside Henry’s backpack, and right under the loop on the outside. That way it is identifiable , but when he has it on, no one can see the labeling. I also use them on his lunch box, pencil case, and inside his shoes.  Mabel’s does make special shoe labels too!

Screen Shot 2018-02-11 at 6.51.57 PM.pngWe opt for labels in his clothes too when we are out in crowded public places (like Disneyland, the zoo, county fair). Even though Henry is 6, he is autistic and has problems remembering my phone number, and he can get distracted in crowds, or fixated on one thing and want to go back to it and wander off.

Screen Shot 2018-02-11 at 6.33.51 PM
Yeah I am!

If pastels and glitter aren’t your thing, check this out- You can select other motifs and themes, and they have different fonts to suit your personality.

Right now, you can shop the new Glitter Labels – $26 for 45 Labels.

Mabel’s is always offering specials and deals, so if glitter labels aren’t your thing, check out their site and subscribe to their email blasts.